Friday 15 July 2011

BREAKING NEWS!!! Government Delays Welfare Reform Bill...

This just in from the Disability Alliance

I'm sure they won't mind me posting it in full :

Government delays Welfare Reform Bill

15 July 2011
The Government has been forced to delay the 2nd Reading of the flagship Bill in the Lords due to peers' concerns over the people affected.
DWP is suggesting other business has blocked progress but the surprise postponement till September from Tues will also give the Government time to lobby peers and answer the queries raised in DA's legal challenge.

This is wonderful, surprising, startling news!!! I need a little lie down before I say any more, but remember this - if it gives the government more time to lobby, it gives us more time too :)))

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Radical Social Work Alive at BASW

Social work is a much maligned profession, and unfairly so given it's pivotal role in protecting vulnerable people. The reason for the muddied reputation of social work is that the profession has been subsumed by the targets and budget cuts forced on them by central government and local authorities. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has come out fighting against cuts to social care, bringing the revived spirit of radical social work to the fore so that the social work profession refuses to be the tool of those who aim to destroy the welfare state. Hilton Dawson, chief executive of BASW, has responded to the letter sent by The Broken of Britain in a very welcome and supportive manner. I will continue this correspondence and let you know of any developments:

Dear Rhydian,

Thank you for your letter regarding the judgement against Elaine McDonald.

BASW members were very distressed and angry to hear about this judgement. It is particularly worrying as the judgement appears to permit a local authority to reduce services without a re-assessment of need. It is really notable that the judgement was not unanimous. The consequences of the decision "do not bear thinking about" said Lady Hale, the one dissenting judge in the case. "The majority view would also entitle an authority to withdraw this help (help to go to the toilet) during the day. The only constraint would be how frequently (or rather how infrequently) it was deemed necessary to change the pads or sheets, consistently with the avoidance of infection and other hazards," she said

Lady Hale, in a very unusual move, has given advice that if the case had been fought on the proper interpretation and application of section 2(1) of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 Ms McDonald may have won.

BASW has been campaigning strongly on the cuts for many months and has given careful consideration to the situation that social workers across the country find themselves in on a daily basis. Guidance was issued to BASW members in March. The guidance clearly explores the ethical issues facing social workers, relating issues to the BASW Code of Ethics and giving particular consideration to how to challenge cuts to those who are most vulnerable. BASW argue that as a country we must give proper priority to improving services and outcomes for the most vulnerable people even at a time of economic stringency, not to cutting them.

The BASW guidance poses the question of what social workers are to do if they feel that cuts are unethical. Advice is given about principles that should guide social workers actions and behaviour and practical advice is given in an eight point plan, which includes:

"Tell BASW. We can preserve your anonymity if necessary and write to managers, Directors, Chief Executives, Councillors. We can meet senior managers with you. We can publicise what is happening and contact the press. Our A&R Service can advise any member who is victimised because of their resistance".

When you hear of cuts being considered, request full consultation for staff and service users and ask questions about:
• other areas where you suspect savings could be made
• whether the cuts are legal
• measures being taken to protect the most in need

"Inform service users about their rights and how to complain".

BASW members across the country have been taking these actions as well as campaigning against the cuts.

In May a survey of BASW members found that 95% of social workers said the cuts they are witnessing would cause suffering and hardship, while over 90% went as far as to suggest that lives would potentially be placed in jeopardy.

BASW fully supports your concerns about the issues raised by the Elaine McDonald case and would be happy to work jointly with Broken of Britain on a whole range of campaigns.

We would be delighted if you would suggest to your members that they question whether any social worker involved with them is a BASW member. BASW members are bound by the international ethical code for our profession which sets standards for ethical conduct which are frankly higher than those required by any Care Council or any other organisation

The UK is one of the richest countries in the world. If governments in all four countries get their priorities right there should be no need to inflict any cuts in vital services on human beings who are entitled to the highest standards of dignity and respect.

Yours sincerely

Hilton Dawson

Chief Executive of BASW and General Secretary of the Social Workers Union

The Begging Letter

This post by Duesexmacintosh originally appeared here
Okay, I really have reached the end of my tattered patience. I WAS going to post a thoughtful piece about the market clearing rate/efficiency wages and the Conservative MP who told the commons recently that disabled people are not as productive as their ‘normal’ colleagues and therefore ought to be free to accept less than the minimum wage to improve their chances of being hired, but why waste my time? I’m obviously being unreasonable to expect the same rate of pay for doing the same work.
Latest news from the Department for Work and Pensions is not much brighter with the announcement of a national fraud hit-squad trawling the country postcode by postcode
Fraud investigators are launching a door-to-door blitz to catch couples who rake in extra benefits by falsely claiming to live apart. The taskforce hopes to save the taxpayer £100million by interviewing every claimant in high-risk postcode areas.
Their main targets are parents who say they live alone while in fact cohabiting with their partner or husband.
Officials from the Department from Work and Pensions and Revenue and Customs will check benefit payments, bank accounts, tax credits and any outside earnings. They will also work with councils to check residential addresses.

Meanwhile someone who claimed government support to rent accommodation from a landlord who was in fact their partner returns to the House of Commons after an entire week’s suspension. The Financial Times says that David Laws is Not Above the Law but I’d beg to differ. As someone on benefits I’d rightly be gaoled for doing what he did – and in fact the local council actually lie-detectored me a couple of a months ago just in case I was doing just that (sorry, but it turns out that SkepticLawyer and I are just good friends). True, the results of this bogus technology are actually no better than chance but that’s not the point.
The first principle of the rule of law – as I keep being told – is “treat like cases alike”. I have complained privately for several years that we’re turning into an “exceptional” society (common standards of behaviour no longer seem to apply because OUR case is always “exceptional”) but in this case I’m not sure if the message is that Laws is too “exceptional” to lose or that the source of my income means I’m an “exception” to fair treatment.
As you can see from the earlier news story, all it takes is living in the wrong postcode for the government to be empowered to examine my bank account and the implication seems to be that the goal of this new taskforce is to eventually work its way across the entire country so no one on any benefits can reasonably expect their financial records to be private, the same way that families who can’t afford private education can’t be sure that the local council won’t set up a surveillance operation outside their home because they might be gaming the catchment areas.
And back onto disability issues, even the Supreme Court has decided that those who can’t afford private night care can be reasonably expected to deliberately soil themselves and wait until morning rather than unreasonably expect their local authority to pay for care assistance at night. So I guess that rather makes it official – the only rights you actually have in this country (including basic dignity) are the ones you can pay for.
Being British used to mean you could expect general basic levels of life, liberty and well being. This wasn’t mandated by a written constitution in the American style but had persisted by common cultural agreement right up until this century. Habeas Corpus meant you couldn’t be summarily detained or held incommunicado by government or royal authority and legal tradition almost as long meant you couldn’t be put to torture for a confession either. Every citizen had identical legal rights even if their personal finances didn’t always guarantee them identical standards of legal representation. These rights were suspended alongside Habeas Corpus in the last decade as an anti-terror measure. No I’m not trying to argue that welfare is “a right” – sorry student protestors but education isn’t either, they’re both privileges – just that the most important identifying feature of a “right” was that it applied to everyone regardless of their economic performance. It was the basis of our stakeholding in what David Cameron now calls the “Big Society”.
So what exactly do I have to do in order to reclaim what I once assumed to be the natural inheritance of my citizenship? Response from the left and most anti-capitalists is simply “be rich”, but I’m trying to be a bit more nuanced and specific plus I’m in favour of the free market. The same way capitalism can’t see your colour (just your balance sheet) in a free market I’m free to ‘get the hell out of dodge’ by fair means, or increasingly foul. Yes, I am thinking of MPs using public money to profit from the booming UK property market and ‘flipping’ residence to dodge capital gains tax while they were at it. Chris Bryant MP, the current commons scourge of Rupert Murdoch is almost certainly right that the media has no place snooping on his social networking or financial arrangements, but it is apparently fine for a government department or local authority to do that to me. There’s a reasonable justification because my rent is being underwritten by a government allowance (just like his).
So here’s my idea: I quit.
I want nothing more to do with your shoddy system and quite frankly after the names people like me have been called for the past 18 months, I now feel that I owe you precisely nothing. Zip. Zero. The big goose egg. I used to feel that I should be contributing whatever social capital I can in lieu of the financial capital I lack, but I’m afraid any goodwill that had been generated by the benefits I was entitled receive all these years has rather been offset by the name calling. I owe Britain nothing. It’s every woman for herself.
Now before my mother gets all excited reading this, that does not mean that I am returning to Australia. Unless you can drive you can’t get around properly over there so it’s just not practical, plus it’s too bloody hot. And I do still live in Edinburgh which has views that are tough to beat. But even so, I’m moving to a croft in Shetland.

Not tomorrow, obviously, but I’m going to move to Shetland and buy a home (the other idea was migrating to a distant corner of New Zealand and buying a dairy farm but the Kiwis won’t let me in because I’m disabled). An additional perk is that Scots Law means you have ‘dominum’ over your property with full-on castle doctrine/get off my lawn style rights, none of this feudal model of leasing it from ultimate crown ownership nonsense. I have an idea for a business that will probably be within the limits of my disability (I wont know for sure until I try) and with the normal caveat of the one in three failure rate in first three years of operation, might even provide enough income to free me from benefits entirely. The only problem is that the whole system is such a hash, I’m going to be a bit busy fighting the DWP for the next five years for my share of the tattered scraps of disability benefits that remain to actually do anything really productive towards this goal. That’s unless I get some kind of Head Start.
Now interestingly in the new privatised Work Programme devised by Ian Duncan Smith, a private company like Ingeus (tenders vary regionally) will get a healthy bounty of £14,000 for placing a long-term Incapacity Benefit claimant such as myself in a job and keeping me in it for a year. Personally I’d rather claim that money myself as I have economic self-improvement ideas a bit more advanced than subsidised shelf-stacking in Poundland and £14,000 would be a nice healthy deposit on the croft (not a huge chunk given the overheated price of British property in even the remotest of isles, but certainly a start). There is also the small issue that since the collapse of the credit bubble, people who aren’t working can effectively no longer qualify for credit so a business loan won’t be the answer. I realise that I’m seen as a bad risk but realistically, there’s no proof that ‘successful’ Work Program participants will be removed from the benefits system entirely either if they’ve been farmed out to minimum-wage jobs by the private providers. They could still qualify for housing our council tax benefits or an income top-up via tax credits because of low wages or be forced out of work by their health and be back onto benefits entirely again in another couple of years, leaving the tax-payer £14,000 out of pocket despite scriptural levels of belief in the efficacy of financial incentives (apparently they only work on corporations).
So why can’t I get a piece of my own action? At the moment I’m writing up a business plan and when it’s complete I will be making a formal application to the DWP to do just that AND will be expecting to get a damn good reason alongside their response of ‘no’. You see, I know that it’s one rule for the companies and another for the claimants and I’m paranoid enough to believe that the only way to avoid the massive economic misery this government seems intent on inflicting is to start working on achieving post-apocalyptic levels of financial independence right now. Unfortunately because I’m disabled, I can’t just go out and get a job. My problem is not lack of motivation (thanks anyway, DWP) I’m simply not well enough to work full time and don’t currently live anywhere I could achieve subsistence by drastically reducing my living costs for food and power etc. by growing/generating my own. [On a croft in Shetland, however...]
Well the government keeps saying that we should count on the charitable sector to step into the gap where government provision of welfare and services have been withdrawn, so this is me sticking my hat out, readers.
This is a begging letter asking you for money. I’m looking for someone (or a group of someones) to start by donating £2000 via to establish a Disabled Person’s Trust with the purpose of buying and developing a croft in Shetland. This will route the establishment money direct to my lawyers (SkepticLawyer & LegalEagle) who will be the trustees so I don’t get the opportunity to blow it on a Bang & Olufsen television or something. I don’t think I would because I have much better plans for it, but I make no guarantees. [I'd suggest making the reference "DEM's DOMINIUM" to keep it seperate from donations to the Skepticlawyer blog itself]. £2000 is what it will cost for a scottish law firm to draw up the Trust Deed.
After that I’ll be trying to raise up to £250,000 for land and business development all of which will be donated directly to the trust (because apparently, people on benefits are all obsessed with consumer electronics – despite the fact I don’t even HAVE a TV at the moment) and only released at the discretion of the Trustees.
Pride is for people who can afford choice. Nor am I “exceptionally” worthy either – there are many deserving causes out there and I can personally recommend Dogs for the Disabled in the UK or Assistance Dogs Australia or another of the excellent Guide Dog training charities in your area. You might like my business plan and think it’s seriously worth a punt to make it happen (copies of what I have so far are available by emailing a request to – though keep in mind I’m still researching at the moment) or you might just want to say “up yours” to The Man. Your motivations for giving are your business, I just need your money.
Please give what you want to.

Monday 11 July 2011

Letter to the Chief Executive of BASW on the implications of the McDonald judgment

Dear Hilton [Dawson],

I write to you as chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) regarding the Supreme Court's judgment in the case of Elaine McDonald, and the wider cuts to social care.

The Supreme Court's judgment is confirmation of a council's right to cut people’s care without an explicit reassessment of need.The solicitor representing Elaine McDonald said: “It raises the possibility that a social worker may just have chat about the care package and suddenly the service user finds their care package has been reduced.” This carte blanche to local authorities to reassess people’s need and reduce people’s care packages with little warning comes at a time when the Coalition Government in seeking to uproot the values enshrined in the welfare state and in social care with cuts to funding and to benefits.

It is a certainty that local authorities will react to these cuts by cutting care packages, especially given that this has become far simpler in light of the McDonald judgement. Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) president Peter Hay has warned that cuts to adult social care in England are set to get worse in 2012-13 following big reductions in funding this year and that "uncertainty about the future will have inevitable and unfortunate consequences." This quote is more worrying than the McDonald judgment as it appears that Adass is resigned to these "unfortunate consequences". Whilst the Association of Directors of Social Services in Wales has been silent in the wake of the McDonald ruling , one can reasonably assume that social services in Wales will also feel less inhibited in reducing care packages and providing adequate services that goes beyond the residual aim of maintaining the safety of service users.

As an organization representing social workers, I am sure that BASW will be concerned that the judgment and the cuts may further erode the trust of disabled people in their social workers, and further damage the social work profession. Social work as a profession has experienced a great deal of unfair criticism in recent times, with social workers struggling to cope with reduced resources, unreasonable and conflicting demands, and a hostile press. The precedent set by the McDonald judgment could worsen the hostility towards the profession.

It is financial officers and Directors of Social Services (not necessarily registered social workers) in local government who will take note of this judgment as a means for reducing budgetary pressure, but it is social workers who will be blamed by care service users. Given that any meeting with a social worker is now potentially an assessment of need for a care service user, my own advice to fellow care service users would be to inform the visiting social worker that the meeting is being recorded, to ensure the presence of an advocate, and to minimize communication that is not solicited by the social worker. This course of action is far from ideal, as a positive relationship between a social worker and their client can be the key to securing the best outcome for the client.

BASW should step forward to issue guidance to its members, in order to preserve the trust of disabled service users in the social work profession. This guidance should be based upon the BASW Code of Ethics. BASW has adopted the International Federation of Social Workers' (IFSW) definition:

The social work profession promotes social change, problem
solving in human relationships and the empowerment and
liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories
of human behaviour and social systems, social work
intervenes at the points where people interact with their
environments. Principles of human rights and social justice
are fundamental to social work (2001).

This means that social workers should attempt to relieve and prevent hardship and suffering. They have a responsibility to help individuals, families, groups and communities through the provision and operation of appropriate services and by contributing to social planning. They work with, on behalf of, or in the interests of people to enable them to deal with personal and social difficulties and obtain essential resources and services. Further, the Code of ethics states that social workers have a duty to:

• Safeguard and promote service users' dignity, individuality, rights, responsibilities and identity;
• Foster individual well-being and autonomy, subject to due respect for the rights of others;
• Respect service users' rights to make informed decisions, and ensure that service users and carers participate in decision-making processes;
• Bring to the attention of those in power and the general public, and where appropriate challenge ways in which the policies or activities of government, organisations or society create or contribute to structural disadvantage, hardship and suffering, or militate against their relief;
• Promote social fairness and the equitable distribution of resources within
their work, aiming to minimise barriers and expand choice and potential
for all service users, especially those who are disadvantaged, vulnerable
or oppressed, or who have exceptional needs;
• Seek to change social structures which perpetuate inequalities and
injustices, and whenever possible work to eliminate all violations of
human rights;
• Promote policies, practices and social conditions which uphold human rights, and which seek to ensure access, equity and participation for all;
• Challenge the abuse of power for suppression and for excluding people from decisions which affect them;
• Account for the ethics of their practice in accordance with their national and international codes of ethics;
• Place service to humanity in their work before personal aims, views and advantage, fulfilling their duty of care and observing principles of natural fairness;
• Use their power and authority in ways which serve humanity, using
participatory and open processes to enable service users to realise their
aims as far as possible, taking account of the relevant interests of
• Give service users the information they need to make choices and about their right to complain and ensure that they have any support they may require in making complaints;
• To place service users' needs and interests before their own beliefs,
aims, views and advantage, and not to use professional relationships to
gain personal, material or financial advantage;
• To be clear when making public statements whether they are speaking as private individuals or as representatives of the social work profession or of an organisation or group;

The above duties are irreconcilable with the Supreme Court's judgment in the case of Elaine McDonald and with the attitude of Adass to the financial situation. Acting in the way that has been sanctioned as legal for local authorities by the Supreme Court runs counter to ethical practice as set out in the Codes of Practice for registered Social Workers in the countries of the United Kingdom and the BASW/IFSW Codes of Ethics. Questions should be raised regarding ethical social work practice in the case of assessing Elaine McDonald's needs without making this explicit.

BASW should remind its members that they should uphold the value of integrity in social work, by refusing to act unethically; by recognizing that budgetary pressures cannot shape their assessment of service user needs; by fulfilling their duty of care towards a client; by promoting service users' dignity, individuality, rights, responsibilities and identity; by being explicit and honest with service users about if and when their needs are being assessed, regardless of pressure from employers. By doing this, the trust between disabled service users and their social workers can be maintained.

The trust of disabled people in the social work profession as a whole can be improved greatly by including in the guidance an unequivocal statement reiterating the commitment of social workers to the values of social justice and service to humanity. Rather than forecasting "unfortunate consequences" as Adass have done, social workers should be reminded that they are ethically bound to fight the changes and avoid "unfortunate consequences".

The goal of the social work is to contribute to the creation of a fairer society. The pursuit of social justice involves identifying, seeking to alleviate ,and advocating strategies for overcoming structural disadvantage . These values cannot be upheld if the social work profession is the passive tool of unfairness.

Unfairness, unethical practice, and activities that create or contribute to structural disadvantage, hardship and suffering, or militate against their relief should be actively resisted by social workers. Unethical practice can be refused or circumvented; unfairness should be brought to the attention of those in power and the general public.

I am confident that you will give due consideration to this letter as it serves the best interests of both the social work profession and disabled people. I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Rhydian Fôn James